UConn signs 22 despite coaching shake-up

Connecticut signed 22 players to its recruiting class Wednesday,

despite a shake-up in Paul Pasqualoni’s coaching staff after a

second consecutive losing season.

The class, which includes five in-state players and two

quarterbacks, has been rated as one of UConn’s strongest ever.

”I think there are some athletes here,” Pasqualoni said. ”So,

maybe it’s a little larger in number, or maybe there’s just a

little more athleticism. There is very good size and a good chance

down the road for there to be excellent size.”

The class is actually has 24 members. Wide receivers Dhameer

Bradley of New Castle, Del. and Noel Thomas, of Norwalk, have

already enrolled at the school.

And there also were a couple of surprises.

Tim Boyle, a 6-foot-4 pro-style quarterback who played at Xavier

in Middletown, decided on UConn this past weekend after withdrawing

his verbal commitment from Boston College.

Boyle told reporters at his signing day ceremony that his

decision to switch was based on the styles of the two offenses.

Connecticut runs a pro-style offense, while new BC coach Steve

Addazio favors a quarterback who is a dual threat.

”When it came to playing football, I definitely have the best

opportunity to play at UConn,” Boyle said. ”It’s definitely a

weight off my shoulders.”

UConn also signed 6-5 Kivon Taylor, a dual-threat quarterback

from Atlanta, Ga. The Huskies had an verbal commitment from

6-foot-6 Richard Lagow of Plano, Texas, but he did not send a

letter of intent. Pasqualoni could not talk about Lagow, but hinted

that he was no longer counting on him to be part of the class.

”We wanted to sign two,” Pasqualoni said.

The newcomers will compete with an already deep set of

quarterbacks, including returning starter Chandler Whitmer, last

year’s prize recruit, Casey Cochran, and Scott McCummings, who has

been UConn’s run-option threat for the past two seasons.

Connecticut also missed out a running back they had targeted,

Laray Smith of Brooklyn, N.Y. He chose Indiana over the Huskies,

Syracuse and several other schools.

But Pasqualoni said he was happy with the size and strength of

the linemen the team recruited, and the skill players.

Pasqualoni said he did not worry about the Big East realignment

in the recruiting process, nor does he believe the recent coaching

changes negatively impacted the class.

Pasqualoni hired T.J. Weist from Cincinnati to become offensive

coordinator after bumping 64-year-old George DeLeone up to the

position of associate head coach. DeLeone will retain his

offensive-line coaching duties.

Hank Hughes, who coached the defensive line for the past two

seasons, is now also defensive coordinator, a position he held

under Randy Edsall. He replaces Don Brown, who left UConn for

Addazio’s staff at BC.

”It kind of gave us a little energy coming down the stretch,

coming down the final turn,” Pasqualoni said. ”I think it kind of

helped us with the guys they knew.”

Nine of UConn’s recruits made up their minds in the last two

weeks.

The instate players signed include Tommy Myers, a tight end from

Coventry. His father, Norm, played football at UConn and mother,

the former Peggy Walsh, played basketball at the school in the

1980s. Her 937 rebounds rank fifth in school history.

Pasqualoni said he’s told all his recruits to be prepared to

fight for playing time as freshmen. UConn has few spots on the

two-deep that are expected to be up for grabs following consecutive

5-7 seasons in Pasqualoni’s first two years in Storrs.

”My message to our players and to our coaches is we’re going

full speed ahead, getting ready for the season,” he said, ”and

let’s take care of what we can take care of and let’s do it in

grand style.”